What’s getting your organization down these days? Do employees seem bored and uninterested in their work? Is retaining top talent proving to be a pain? Are lines of communication painfully circuitous — do they seem to have been snipped outright?
According to Axero Solutions, best known for creating the enterprise social networking software Communifire, there’s a good chance your organization is suffering from one (or more) of the aforementioned plights. Axero conducted an informal survey of visitors to the company’s website and found that, of all the challenges facing the workplace today, these are the five most common and most daunting:
- Employee engagement: This likely doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, considering that roughly 31.7 percent of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs. That leaves the vast majority of the U.S. workforce disengaged.
- Time management: Among industrialized countries, the U.S. ranks first in terms of hours worked per year. The average American employee puts in 1800 hours annually — 400 more hours than their Norwegian counterparts, for example. Is this because U.S. workers are bad at time management, or is it because U.S. workers are simply asked to do more than workers in other industrialized nations? In all honesty, it’s probably the latter.
- Overwhelming workloads: As mentioned above, Americans work a lot. Their heavy workloads likely contribute to their time-management problems. When you have so much to do, how can you possibly fit it all into the confines of the eight-hour workday?
- Employee turnover: In 2014, the average turnover rate across all industries was 15.7 percent. Considering that the “golden” turnover rate should be about 10 percent (depending on who is leaving), it seems there is some serious work to be done in this area.
- Open communication: “Transparency” has reached full buzzword status, but in true buzzword fashion, it doesn’t seem like too many people are actually paying attention to the very same virtues they laud. Only 14 percent of organizations can say with confidence that their employees understand the company’s goals, strategies, mission, and vision.
“[These things] are incredibly hard to do,” says Tim Eisenhauer, Axero’s CEO. “I find it true in my own work and management experiences as well. If these were easy for people to solve, they wouldn’t be the biggest challenges at work!”
Some companies may look at this list and feel they are immune to these challenges — or at least lucky enough to have dodged these particular bullets. But, Eisenhauer says, that’s likely not the case: companies at all levels across all industries face these problems. If an employer thinks they are immune, they may want to take some time to really evaluate whether or not that’s true.
“These are all human problems, not just workplace problems,” Eisenhauer says. “So, yes, in some way, regardless of whether they know it or not, this touches every organization in every industry on the planet.”
That being said, Eisenhauer believes these challenges are not unbeatable; they can be surmounted.
“Companies can do something about it through policies (mandatory – top down) and culture (more grass roots – bottom up),” Eisenhauer explains.
And how, exactly, can companies do something?
The first step is recognizing that the problems are real and do exist. Again, if your organization believes it isn’t suffering, some intense scrutiny may be in order.
Once the problems have been recognized and noted, the solution breaks down to three levels:
- The Individual Level: This includes things like “making sure you hire the right people for your organization; engaging new hires from day one and making them feel comfortable; helping new hires set goals and achieve them; keeping people motivated; and connecting the people inside your organization to one another and the company’s overall values and mission,” Eisenhauer says.
- The Relationship Level: This includes the steps managers can take to build employee trust and foster strong relationships between all members of the company. Eisenhauer says that managers should consider strategies such as “rewarding people; thanking them; letting them know that their contributions are heard and that they actually matter; supporting career development; identifying what people are good at; and giving people projects related to their strengths.”
- The Company Level: At this level, the priority must be “building a strong culture and allowing it to evolve,” Eisenhauer says. Organizations need to promote open communication and candor; they need to design and share missions that people can get behind; and leaders and high-level executives need to lead by example, interacting with the employees who are working down in the trenches.